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Terry Barfoot, MWI Reviewer

Obituaries by Roy Westbrook and Ian Lace

I met Terry Barfoot when we were schoolboys together at the Northern Grammar School in Portsmouth in the 1960’s. We were team mates in football and cricket teams back then, and followers of Hampshire cricket and Portsmouth football clubs. Even in later years it was unwise to call him if Pompey had just lost. But when we re-encountered each other after University it was through a common, and then recent, passion for classical music. In our twenties we discovered the repertoire together in concerts and on record. Terry became a schoolmaster, but soon began a secondary and then after some years a primary, career in musical education for adults. His evening and weekend classes, pre-concert talks, invited lectures, and programme notes made him a familiar and much-admired figure, along the south coast and beyond.

He had many qualities that suited him to this role; a wide knowledge, a fluent and engaging manner (often humorous but never frivolous), and a talent for organisation – things very rarely went wrong. But his special strength lay in his passion for his subject and his genuine interest in every individual in his audience. These two are at the heart of great teaching in most settings of course, but not so common outside institutions, in part-time and occasional contexts where contact is intermittent. Yet he developed a large group of people who became loyal attenders at his events, many becoming friends (and some even benefactors), such was the impact he had and the gratitude he generated. It is worth noting that a number of his acolytes (hardly too strong a term) had a deeper musical background, sometimes a professional one, than Terry had, but still felt they learned a great deal.

He contributed to books on music history, taught summer schools at Oxford, and reviewed CDs for MusicWeb International. He also developed short courses in residential settings, developing the enterprise Arts in Residence which offered beautiful music in special places, often small country hotels in rural England. Later still some events were held overseas, in the European cities associated with the great composers, where his entrepreneurial flair and loyal following enabled him to keep these affordable, below the prices set by the higher profile rivals seen in glossy magazines. Terry rarely needed to advertise, except to his own large mailing list of repeat customers who knew the value they would obtain. Most events were oversubscribed, year after year.

I was one of his occasional collaborators on these occasions, and co-author with him on our book “Opera – A History”. When we taught courses together I sometimes wondered what the audience made of our sparring, continued from our playground days, which we still imagined to be witty, and which we hoped might mature (it didn’t).  He had above all, and in abundance, the most precious of talents, a talent for friendship. One of his supporters phoned in to the BBC’s Today programme one morning a few years back, and suggested him as ‘Man of the Year’. But his various contributions spanned many years, and would have continued but for his devastating illness, and still more the interruption to its treatment due to the Covid-19 pandemic. He died on 12 August 2020, a few weeks short of his 71st birthday. He leaves his wife Jan, and sons Philip and Matthew.

Roy Westbrook

Terry was an outstanding figure in the musical life of southern England and beyond. He wrote and lectured widely about music and opera.  He was Publications Consultant to the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. He lectured, for example, at the British Library, the Austrian Cultural Forum, Opera Holland Park, the Royal Opera House, the Three Choirs Festival and at Oxford University, where he gave a series of lectures on Beethoven. His last book, A History of Music, written for Omnibus Press, was published in October 2014.

Terry contributed to Classical Music, Opera Now, and BBC Music Magazine as well as MusicWeb International, and for many years, he was editor of the Classical Music Repertoire Guide. His book Opera: A History was published by The Bodley Head, and he contributed to The International Dictionary of Opera and The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians.

He inaugurated his ‘Arts in Residence’ organization to promote musical events  throughout Britain and in Europe, and led visits to Prague, Leipzig, Vienna, Amsterdam, Budapest and Berlin. In 2017 he gave a series of pre-concert talks at the Sibelius Festival in Lahti, Finland.

I was delighted when Terry invited me to join him in giving pre-concert talks at the Hawth Concert Hall, in Crawley; and certain other music events, including a celebration of the music and life of Gustav Holst and musical presentations at the Earnley Concourse. 

Terry was always very friendly, very approachable and encouraging of colleagues, and extremely knowledgeable but he wore that knowledge lightly.  His great enthusiasm and dry wit will be greatly missed.

Ian Lace



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